N5.4bn Covid-19 Fraud: ICPC Arrests NDDC Directors, Launches Fresh Probe

  • To Investigate Fraudulent Contracts, Foreign Scholarship Scam, Others
  • Why NDDC’s Education, Health & Social Services Director Ibanga Was Quizzed

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) recently arrested top officials of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over alleged diversion and misappropriation of N5.4 billion Covid-19 fund.

The Commission also retrieved documents from the officials to enable it continue with its investigation. They were reportedly arrested and detained on Monday, before their release on Thursday.

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The arrested officials, it was gathered include two Directors in charge of education, health, and social services, as well as the Director in charge of special projects. Among those reportedly quizzed  is  Luke Ibanga,  director of education, Health  and Social Services at the NDDC.

According to a statement released by the ICPC spokesperson, Mr. Azuka Ogugua, Saturday, the NDDC directors were interrogated at its headquarters in Abuja after months of intelligence gathering.

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The ICPC’s investigation followed the receipt of petitions from Nigerians on the alleged illegalities and reported fraudulent contract awarded by some officials of the commission.

Part of the allegations the ICPC is currently investigating are the payment of millions of naira to staff of the NDDC for foreign training during the Covid-19 lockdown; the non-payment of entitlements to students on foreign scholarships and the back dating and award of contract not documented in the commission’s budget among others.

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Ogugua in a statement entitled, ‘ICPC quizzes NDDC directors, other officials,’ said, “The officials of the agency were also being investigated for their complicity in the alleged diversion of N5.474bn meant for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the nine states of NDDC.

“Other allegations being investigated by the anti-graft agency include the selling of back-dated contract award letters for projects and awards of contracts that were not captured in the budget of the NDDC.”

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“ICPC had already retrieved relevant documents with which to continue investigations towards the recovery of diverted funds and prosecution of breaches of the law,” ICPC said.

The NDDC’s IMC has been facing sundry allegations bordering on corruption from several federal establishments, including the National Assembly.

Recall the NDDC’s Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, had admitted that the commission spent N1.5 billion for its staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’.

Also, the Senate Ad hoc Committee set up to probe “alleged financial recklessness” at the NDDC up to the tune of N81.5bn in a probe report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari recently asked the IMC to refund the N4.923billion it paid to staff and contractors in breach of the procurement process and approvals.

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A breakdown of monies that the committee asked the IMC to refund include the cost for overseas travel to the United Kingdom in the sum of N85.7million; Scholarships Grants – N105.5million; Union Members trip to Italy – N164.2million; Lassa Fever Kit – N1.96billon; Public Communication – N1.2billion and COVID-19 Relief -N1.49billon.

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Amid the litany of fraud allegations against the Pondei-led IMC, the Nigerian public, including Niger Delta leaders in the past weeks have asked President Buhari to sack the current IMC and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to clean up the mess at the interventionist agency, with the already approved board by the Senate inaugurated.

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